Etymology
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libel (v.)
mid-15c., "make an initial statement setting out a plaintiff's case," from libel (n.), which see for sense development. Meaning "defame or discredit by libelous statements" is from c. 1600. Related: Libeled; libelled; libeling; libelling; libellant; libellee.
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libel (n.)
c. 1300, "formal written statement, a writing of any kind," especially, in civil law, "plaintiff's statement of charges" (mid-14c.); from Old French libelle (fem.) "small book; (legal) charge, claim; writ; written report" (13c.), from Latin libellus "a little book, pamphlet; petition, written accusation, complaint," diminutive of liber "book" (see library). Meaning "false or defamatory statement" is from 1610s. Specific legal sense of "any published or written statement likely to harm a person's reputation" is first attested 1630s.
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libelous (adj.)
also libellous, "defamatory, containing that which exposes another to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule," 1610s, from libel (n.) + -ous. Related: Libelously; libelousness.
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innuendo (n.)
"oblique hint, indiscreet suggestion," usually a deprecatory one, 1670s, from Latin innuendo "by meaning, pointing to," literally "giving a nod to," ablative of gerund of innuere "to mean, signify," literally "to nod to," from in- "at" (from PIE root *en "in") + nuere "to nod" (see numinous).

Originally in English a legal phrase (1560s) from Medieval Latin, with the sense of "to wit," introducing an explanatory or parenthetical clause, it also introduced the derogatory meaning alleged in libel cases, which led to broader meaning. As a verb, from 1706.
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scold (n.)

mid-12c., "person of ribald speech;" c. 1300, "person fond of chiding abusive language," especially a shrewish woman [Johnson defines the noun as "A clamourous, rude, mean, low, foul-mouthed woman"], from Old Norse skald "poet" (see skald).

The sense evolution might reflect the fact that Germanic poets (like their Celtic counterparts) were famously feared for their ability to lampoon and mock (as in skaldskapr "poetry," also, in Icelandic law books, "libel in verse").

The noun meaning "act of scolding" is by 1726 but seems not to have been in common use. In old law, common scold (Latin communis rixatrix) is from late 15c.

We have not sufficient adjudications to enable us to define this offence with certainty ; but probably a definition substantially correct is the following : A common scold is one, who, by the practice of frequent scolding, disturbs the repose of the neighborhood. [Joel Prentiss Bishop, "Commentaries on the Criminal Law," Boston, 1858]
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